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Educated in Amherst, Massachusetts, Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe (1819-1906) accompanied her physician-husband to California in 1849. The couple first lived in mining camps where Dr. Clappe practiced medicine and then moved to San Francisco, where Mrs. Clappe taught in the public schools for more than twenty years. The Shirley letters (1922) is the book edition of a series of letters written by Mrs. Clappe to her sister in 1851 and 1852. They were first published under the pseudonym of "Dame Shirley" in the Pioneer magazine, 1854-55. In these letters Louise Clappe writes of life in San Francisco and the Feather River mining communities of Rich Bar and Indian Bar. She focuses on the experiences of women and children, the perils of miners' work, crime and punishment, and relations with native Hispanic residents and Native Americans. Bret Harte is said to have based two of his stories on the "Shirley" letters.
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